I've been out this morning to attend a conference on Blasius of Parma, a medieval mathematician who brought down to Italy some of the ideas of the so called Oxford calculators. But when I arrived at the faculty building, I found the amphitheatre empty. Perhaps the session had been moved somewhere else, but there was no notice. So I went shopping in the main street.
Over the last quarter of a century, we used to think, in the East, that we could buy everything, a great plenty of everything imaginable, as long as we had money. But there is still a difference. I've been mentally choosing some curtains for my Amsterdam home; I've opted for a fine linen, pearl-grey textile with a cobalt blue pattern resembling the porcelain from Delft. And an expensive armchair covered with genuine leather. I've contemplated the price. The equivalent of what? Something like 5 days of my exile, if I'm not mistaken in my calculus. And I saw in the internet that a full professor in Germany, rather unsurprisingly, gains more than this. He or she would only have to work a day, and then again, perhaps staying a little longer the next afternoon, to buy this armchair.
I still have my reading of the Oxford calculators in front of me. In the meanwhile, I cannot get through reading "The Guardian".
I saw the pictures. An army of crusaders, sixty thousand men in their prime, just passing, as the photographer's lens caught them, in front of the very train station where I used to get down every week, over the last decade, to give my classes at the University of Warsaw. They hoist "Deus vult" in big letters. And that's only true, since what God wants, is.
This is the reason why I no longer have a home. I only have an apartment to sell. I cannot complain. There are people who only have ruins.
Moreover, I might be glad and thankful to God who had bestowed His crusaders upon me. Otherwise I might have spent the rest of my life catching the train at 5 am to come up from Kraków to give classes in Warsaw. Never to own an armchair covered with genuine leather.
So I'm giving up on yesterdays, according to an American book I've found here. The number of things I would like to bring along with me is lesser and lesser every day. Nonetheless I still have my attachments. Perhaps mostly to things that should have been in my childhood, but there was no place for them.
A pair of curtains from IKEA stamped with diverse organisms like a biology manual; they are still hanging in my old balcony window.
A collection of several hundred ball and jelly pens.
A considerable number of notebooks and exercise books.
Several hundred books.
About 30 pairs of used socks.
A ceramic sheep bought in Zakopane.
An extensive collection of maps.
A sizeable globe.
A desk lamp, just like the ones in the SOAS library.
A bed cover with an exquisite pattern in various shades of gold.
A nearly complete set of "Fryderyka" porcelain tableware (imitation of Rosenthal); a lonely coffee cup of the same type was the only piece of porcelain that ever existed in my childhood; it had been inherited.
One day these things will appear as worthless to me, I have no doubt. I will have better porcelain, better books, a better globe. Actualised maps, brought home from even more fabulous travels. And I will not miss my apartment. As I certainly don't miss the half square meter of the communal flat where I passed my childhood. Nor my family's apartment later on, in Lublin. Nor the shared room in the so called assistant professors' "hotel" where I lived in my first years in Kraków.
An aged colleague has written to me, commenting that I'm missing in Warsaw. It is certainly nice to say, but I cannot seriously believe this. Not after having been ignored for a decade. And I hardly find any serious reason to look back, beyond the melancholy of departure. Anyway, if Deus vult?